This picture of the factory is actually on the wall of the customer waiting room lobby.
We first took a tour of the factory. It was followed by a rep going over all of the features of the car with my friend. We had dinner and my friend then let me drive his new car approximately 20 miles on the freeway.
Here is what I remember from the tour:
- The rolls of aluminum are from Alcoa's factory in Iowa. The largest roll we saw, which was not really that big at all, cost $30,000.
- A huge hydraulic press stamped out the aluminum body parts. It is four stories high above ground and three stories below ground. It is the largest in North America and the 6th largest in the world. We saw it stamping the hatchback lid. A mechanical press's closing speed would be too high and would break the piece in two. With the slower but more powerful hydraulic press, difficult shapes can be made.
- The NUMMI factory where Tesla is located is 3/4 of a mile long. It can fit the entire Le Mans racetrack. Only 25% of the space is used. There is a small test track for NVH testing indoors. It is the only indoor test track because the cars are zero emissions.
- The basement has tunnels large enough for semi trucks to come in and to pick up the discarded aluminum pieces. Those pieces are recycled.
- Many of the workers are Filipino-Americans. The workers are not unionized.
- Many workers moved around the factory via bicycles and one used a skateboard.
- Currently, 40 cars are assembled a day. In 2010, just before NUMMI closed, GM/Toyota built 6,000 cars a week there.
- The plant has its own water treatment plant and electrical grid.
- The plant was worth $1 billion. It was sold to Tesla for $42 million.
- The robots can take off their arms/tools by themselves and attach other arms/tools by themselves.
- The battery is thin and flat and serves as the undercarriage of the car, giving it extra rigidity.
- The final inspection is done on a bamboo floor. It provides contrast so that imperfections to the body can be more easily detected.
- Some of the parts are sourced from Mercedes and Toyota.
- RHD models will be available soon.
Here is my friend's car. The only fluid that needs to be added to this car is the windshield wiper fluid.
I did not like the doors. The handle has to pop out before you can grab it and open the door.
This is the dash in front of the steering wheel. The electronics are comprehensive but not overwhelming. The interior appointments were a bit spartan but comfortable. This car has the 85 kW-h motor good for 360 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. It's fairly roomy inside and comparable to a larger mid-sized car. Out the door, with tax, it ended up a bit over $90,000. But my friend anticipates over $15,000 in tax credits from the feds, the state, and his county.
The car is barely 5 minutes old and it has unsightly finger smudges on its door handles already.
There is no spare tire. 19" tires are on all four corners.
We had a hard time disconnecting the plug on several occasions. It probably takes a little finesse and practice.
My Phaeton is on the right for size comparison's sake. I drove the Model S on the freeway for approximately 20 miles. The acceleration is effortless and the lack of sound is disconcerting. The 85 kW-h motor is good for a 5.3 second 0 to 60 time. I set the steering wheel to sport mode so there was plenty of resistance. The car has an air suspension. I didn't really get to test the handling other than using on- and off-ramps. It handles competently for a car of its size (4,600 pounds). It really reminded me of the new 5-Series.
Here is the Tesla's key.
I drove home in my gas guzzler. 20.4 mpg was actually quite admirable. During my commute to work, I'd be lucky if I got 14 mpg.
The factory tour was an amazing experience and the Model S is a great American car!